Letter: What Tony Blair told the TGWU conference

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The Independent Online
Sir: Bill Morris reveals the conservatism of the TGWU executive with his remarks on Labour's modernisation project ("TGWU warns against more Labour changes", 10 July). Labour has come a long way. The new statement of aims and values gives Labour a modern mission statement. The greater use of one-member-one-vote democracy involves more members than ever before in choosing parliamentary candidates and the national leadership. The huge influx of new members since Tony Blair became leader renews Labour's links with Britain's communities.

But there is still a long way to go. The leaders of the TGWU must recognise that Labour still needs a huge internal overhaul if it is to become a truly modern election-winning machine and, more crucially, if it is to sustain a Labour government beyond a single term in office.

The share of votes at party conference for constituency delegates must be increased to 50 per cent, with a corresponding decrease in the union block vote. This must come as part of a deliberate progression to a direct democratic system where every Labour member has one vote, but no one has a million.

When Harold Wilson was prime minister, he simply ignored the Labour NEC. Now, the NEC must become a more representative sounding board for prime minister Blair, including a voice for local government and genuine constituency representatives, not the present arrangement of union reps and members of the Shadow Cabinet.

Conference must become more of a national platform for positive projection of Labour's message, not the gladiatorial, tub-thumping rhetoric of the past. The funding relationship between Labour and the unions must be modernised: there is little point giving money to MPs in safe seats while the marginals are desperate for cash.

These are just some of the areas that need serious discussion ahead of the general election, despite what the TGWU executive might think. The advances for Labour's modernisation project in the next 12 months might mean the difference between a single Labour term followed by 10 years of prime minister Portillo, or a sustained period of reforming, progressive and modern national leadership under new Labour.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Richards

London, W6

10 July

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